Verizon BlackBerry Curve 8530 Review

Hands on Initial Review of the Verizon BlackBerry Curve2 8530!

While on a recent trip I had a chance to spend some solid hands-on time with the Verizon BlackBerry Curve2 8530. I must admit to being a little surprised when I first received the Verizon BlackBerry Curve2. Firstly the name. The box actually labeled the device as the "Curve 2" and not the Curve 8530 (and that seemed to be the name others kept referring to the device as). I'm pretty sure Curve space 2 is not what the device will launch as though, but am guessing internally that has been the Verizon lingo for it in months past and some of that habit carried through as they get ready to launch (especially with talk of the Storm2. Secondly, the fact that the Curve 8530 now has Wi-Fi - which the first pre-production "aries" units did not (see first photos). We had heard all future Verizon BlackBerry devices wre mandated to have WiFi, so I guess that's holding true. And third, the fact that it isn't six months or more behind the GSM carriers, which historically has been the case. Just a few weeks ago we posted photos showing the Curve 8530 SKU already in Verizon's Inventory system. It's nice to see the CDMA folks are going to get the new Curve love in short order. It's not quite my usual pre-release green table review, but keep reading for a better look at the new Curve from Verizon!

BlackBerry Name Games

Lets talk about that potential Curve 2 name for a bit. I'm not convinced it is the correct name. Normally when you put a "2" after a name it means bigger and better. Like "Terminator 2: Judgment Day". You expect the same Terminator action but better. When you name a product as if it was a sequel, you expect that the sequel will be better.

I suppose its perspective. If Verizon customers lived in a world where they only knew about Verizon products, then calling it the Curve 2 would actually be better in some respects than the Curve 8330. It has over double the flash memory at 256MB, it has a faster CPU, and it has Wi-Fi. Those are three very important aspects. However, we all know about the Curve 8900 that has all of these features plus a much higher resolution screen at 480x360 pixels, and a beautiful 3.2 Megapixel camera with mechanical auto focus. Plus we know at some point there is likely to be more Curves down the road (Curve Touch anyone??).

BlackBerry Curve 2 Box label
had to blank out some stuff... but the box label was Curve 2?!!

So why then would a product get called the Curve 2, yet not be on a par with the Curve 8900? If it were to get officially dubbed the Curve 2, the reasoning may lie in the fact that the Verizon Curve2 is actually better than the Curve 8520 with its 3G radio, WiFi and built-in GPS, but lacking the cool factor of the Curve 8900 that has the high res screen and beautiful camera. It's in between. So if you have never used or heard about the Curve 8900, then yes this is a better Curve than the Curve 8330, and so Curve 2 could sense. Considering the new Storm is the Storm2, one could see a new Curve getting the Curve2 name. In a perfect BlackBerry world it might even make sense, a lot of sense. Though in this case we're still seeing a space between Curve and the 2 (vs. Storm2 with no space) and the back label of the device is still labeled with Curve vs. Curve2 or Curve 2. So it has to be either the BlackBerry Curve2, BlackBerry Curve 8530, or BlackBerry Curve2 8530 (or arguably 8350 now that his has WiFi and GPS, like the Storm2, which is now the 9550).

At the end of the day, I still think Verizon will ultimately release the device as the BlackBerry Curve 8530, likely market it as "The New Curve" and just unofficially may have been referring to it as Curve 2, but who knows.

How Does the Curve2 8530 Stack Up Technically?

The Verizon BlackBerry Curve 8530 stacks up well against its GSM brother the Curve 8520, and in fact out does it with the inclusion of a GPS radio and 3G. It is certainly a worthwhile step up from the older Verizon Curve 8330. Here are the specifications compared with the older 8300 Curve models, the Curve 8900, and the Curve 8520.

BlackBerry 8320
2 MP
2 MP
2 MP
2 MP
3.2 MP
Autofocus No No
Camera flash
Yes Yes
Flash memory
Screen width (pixels)
Screen height (pixels)
240 240
Yes No
512MHz  * ?
 *it's definitely faster than the 8330, but not sure if it's the same 528MHz processor that the Tour uses


Wi-Fi At Last!

If you have listened to the CrackBerry podcast you know that we are always wondering why Verizon BlackBerrys have no Wi-Fi. After all, GSM BlackBerry Smartphones have had Wi-Fi since 2007. Was it truly a technical limitation on RIM's part? Or more like a Verizon dictation to RIM to not include it? Well now finally, with no reasons given as to why it has taken almost 3 years, it seems Verizon and RIM together are on the CDMA bandwagon and like the BlackBerry Storm2, the Verizon BlackBerry Curve 8530 has Wi-Fi!

I was able to associate with my Wi-Fi network with no issues and browsing the web using the Hotspot browser was rewarding. Verizon hasn't embraced the free phone calls over Wi-Fi using UMA but still, having Wi-Fi on a Verizon BlackBerry is a bit like a dream come true.

As with other BlackBerry models, the Wi-Fi radio supports 802.11b/g.

Simultaneous Voice and Data

The extra benefit of Wi-Fi is not always evident though. On previous Verizon BlackBerrys, if you were on the phone, you could not send or receive emails, browse the web, or use third party applications that required a data connection. This is because on the Verizon network, you cannot do simultaneous voice and data. The same is true for GPRS and EDGE networks, but UMTS 3G networks support simultaneous voice and data, something that Verizon customers would welcome.

Curve 8530
Thanks to WiFi, you can have Voice and Data together

Well now they can. When you associate a BlackBerry to a Wi-Fi network, it establishes a second connection to the RIM NOC over the Internet. So while you are chatting away on the phone, you can send and receive emails and browse the web.

Feel and Finish

The Verizon BlackBerry Curve 8530 felt solid in my hands. No issues with build quality here. It is identical to the Curve 8520 with the exception of the back cover, which, is covered in a checkered pattern that feels silky to the touch. It adds that little something extra compared to the Curve 8520.

BlackBerry Curve 8530 - back

Like the Curve 8520, the Verizon Curve 2 gives you the impression that it is an entry-level device. After all it is an entry level BlackBerry but it doesn't let you down when you start using it. It feels cheaper for sure, but not badly made.

The optical trackpad really helps to keep the lines clean and if you think about it, what entry-level phone has an optical trackpad these days? You just don't see it, excepting on an entry-level BlackBerry.

BlackBerry Curve 8530

Under the battery cover you will find everything but a place for a SIM card (even though the cutout for it is actually still there). The Micro-SD slot has been redesigned again and this time I think it's easier than ever to slip old cards out and new cards in. The design is a concave slot that guides the cards directly into the reader. As for battery life, as often happens with a CDMA phone compared to its GSM comparison, the battery life of the 8530 doesn't seem to be quite as good as the 8520.

GUI and Navigation

Thanks to the faster CPU the navigation is very snappy. Applications open and close very fast and general scrolling around the interface shows no sign of lag. This particular unit is running OS, so there are those slight polishes to the menus and some screens which are welcomed in 5.0. By the time it gets released by Verizon, it will surely have an even higher OS version number.

8530 About Screen

The optical trackpad is really great. I think its better than the trackball. Not only does it allow for a smoother design, it is a pleasure to navigate with. Even more important is that it doesn't get clogged up with pocket lint, tobacco/tar residue (for you cigarette smoking BlackBerry users out there), or food.

Curve 8530 Today Screen

Another OS5.0 change quickly noticed while booting up the Curve 8530 is that it no longer shows the cellular network as EV (for EVDO). It just shows 3G. This is maybe being done to hide or mask the underlying technology and simply refer to it as 3G no matter if it is UMTS or EVDO. It also could be because the layman has heard of 3G and knows that it's supposed to be fast, but they may not have heard of EVDO, or if they have they may not know it is actually a 3G technology. So going with a generic 3G icon is probably a good idea.

Not to labor the point, but seeing the Wi-Fi logo under the signal meter on a Verizon BlackBerry is wonderful.

BlackBerry Curve 8530

I like the dedicated media buttons on the top of the Curve 8530. Being able to play, pause, rewind, and fast forward without having to look at the screen or even be in the Media Player is a great idea.

The Camera

We all know that in a move to keep the overall cost of the device low, the 8500 series is still using a 2 Megapixel camera while the 8900 and all other new BlackBerry models are using the 3.2 Megapixel autofocus camera. I thought I'd take a few pictures with both an 8900 and an 8530 to see how they compare.

BlackBerry Curve 8530 photo
Taken with the Curve 8530 in sun light

BlackBerry Curve 8900
Taken with the Curve 8900 in sun light

I didn't expect to see richer colors from the 8530's camera but that is exactly what you can see. Certainly the resolution is lower but either it's a better CCD or the image is being manipulated by software to enhance it.

Ultimately with a higher resolution and auto focus, the 8900's camera will win out in many situations, but for the purpose of a quick point, shoot, email the 8530's camera seems fine.

Web Browser

The web browser is OK. It still suffers from the JavaScript issues, which are really annoying when trying to browse the real web (as apposed to the mobile versions of sites). I think worse though is the fact that the screen resolution is smaller than I'm now used to.

8530 Web Browser

Seeing a fully zoomed out web page on the 8530 is not too appealing compared with what we see on an 8900, Storm, Tour, or Bold. While the 320x240 screen resolution resolution is fine for general use of the phone -- navigating the around operating system, emails, calendar, alarm clock, etc. -- pixels make a huge difference in the web browsing experience. And 320x240 is just not enough these days.

Closing Thoughts

We can conclude many things from the Curve2.

Compared to the previous Verizon Curve, it has a faster CPU, has more flash memory, it has Wi-Fi, it can do simultaneous voice and data, it has the optical trackpad and an updated look and feel. All of these features make it a good Verizon Curve 8330 replacement, even if it is aimed at the low end of the market. Anyone shopping in that low end of the market will be picking up a great entry-level Smartphone.

Compared to its brother the Curve 8520, it has built-in GPS and 3G, although it doesn't have the free calling over Wi-Fi (UMA) that T-Mobile's BlackBerry Curve 8520 offers. If you were shopping for an entry-level smartphone, you have good reason to choose the Curve 8530 over the Curve 8520 if you didn't care about the free calling over Wi-Fi or you were only going to use it in the US.

Compared to the BlackBerry Curve 8900, it is lacking the 3.2 Megapixel auto focus camera with flash, the larger resolution screen, and the more sophisticated styling and finish, but it does have 3G (albeit US only) and the optical trackpad.

Compared to the BlackBerry Tour, Verizon's other newest full physical qwerty BlackBerry Smartphone, it lacks the Tour's high-resolution screen, world phone capabilities and 3.2 megapixel camera, but sacrificing those features the 8530 packs everything it offers into a smaller, tighter, lower cost package.

The BlackBerry Curve 8330 was and still is one of the most popular smartphones in the United States. That said, in a sector where devices grow up and grow old fast, the Curve 8330 is definitely aged and ready for retirement. Luckily, the BlackBerry Curve 8530 is more than ready, willing and able to step into the 8330's shoes to handle the task of being the entry-level BlackBerry of choice for Verizon.

Coming Soon

** No pricing or release date info are available at this time for the Verizon BlackBerry Curve 8530, but we know the New Curve is coming soon..likely before the holidays. Stay tuned and we'll let you know as soon as we do! **